My 12 year old daughter and I headed off to Southampton,mid August 2009, for a 14 day cruise around the Med on the Independence of the Seas. Arriving at Southampton by car, we were impressed with the logistics of getting cars parked, luggage out and the whole boarding process. We then boarded and walked around what was the biggest sailing cruise liner (now the 2nd biggest I think). Shortly after arriving to our cabin, our luggage was present, the cabin was extremely clean and our room attendant was extremely pleasant and helpful.
My daughter had an absolutely superb time, ice skating, climbing the wall, and riding the surf machines on days at sea, and on return from visits ashore! An absolutely fun packed and entertaining ship for older children.
Anytime dining was good for us, we could eat in the main informal dining room and also the lovely formal dining room whenever we wanted which was great. Drinks packages can be bought either beforehand or once on board - we purchased a soft drinks package for my daughter which worked out good value. Many drinks available free all day - coffee tea, juices, water etc.
Promenade had a reasonable variety of shops and was also the venue for some of the parades which were entertaining for all ages. Evening entertainment was varied and of a high standard. The ice shows were very popular though and many could not get tickets even after queueing from 7am time announced (go half hour earlier would be my recommendation).
The port drop offs/organisation was well organised, although it's no mean feat getting thousands of people off the ship - disembark early or wait until mid day to avoid some queueing. Excursions varied in choice and price. I went on three and none of them disappointing. Food choice and quality excellent in all restaurants, friendly service from all received. Spa facilities and gym very good, excellent range of treatments, a brilliant family holiday for all - even if you never wanted to get off throughout the 14 days - would be plenty to do!